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Is Our Ski Season Too Short?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
In the "Factoid" thread on the Skiing Technique forum, Lisamarie characterizes the North American ski season as "pathetically short, especially in New England."

Does anyone remember the NY Times article that appeared about this time last year? It was about Hunter Mountain regulars who were enraged that the mountain had decided to close during the third week of April, even though it had enough base to last through the end of May. The reason? Even with a skelton crew, it cost too much money to keep the mountain open for about 100-150 customers a day, 95% of whom were season ticket holders.

Even in this, the worst snow year in recent memory, the season "started" (and yes, it started pretty pathetically) in early December and is finishing soon: that's four months. Out in Utah, with snow depths still at more than 90 inches, Deer Valley is calling it a day on April 7th, Solitude on April 8th and The Canyons on April 15th. It appears that ski resorts stay open until it's no longer profitable to do so.

My question: are the "mountain people" of Austria or Switzerland genetically different from us here? Do they continue to patronize ski areas well into June, and in numbers large enough to make it profitable (or at least not a financial disaster) for said ski areas?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 30, 2002 07:56 AM: Message edited 1 time, by jamesdeluxe ]</font>
post #2 of 15
Jamesdeluxe makes the point that finances drive resort decisions, but isn't it good marketing to have a few lifts open early and late season just for the exposure it can give?

I remember, about 5 years ago, Park City opened a day or two before Halloween and then extended up until the 1st of May! Of course, this was before POWDR Corp. took over (no early openings or late closings since), and also when they still had the rickety Gondola that allowed people to download over the spring mush (the base at PCMR gets so slushy it's almost like pondskimming).

Deer Valley on the other hand, has always set their opening and closing dates well in advance (they already have the 2002-3 dates). They also stick to them, because from when they open until they close the resort, they try to have every lift possible open and as much terrain as possible open as well (I'm sure TR@DV can expound on this)!

Anyway, what's so wrong with earning your turns once the lifts stop? Spring is my favorite time for hiking - sun, corn snow, no crowds and a nice bbq all make for a great time!
post #3 of 15
Not really james, most euro resorts close their lifts about a week after easter. Some of your bigger areas stay open until may. The glaciers are open year round but the crowds definetly stop after easter. Its a pity too because we get most of our snow real late, often falling on Mts. with closed lifts. Ive seen a couple late season deals too. St anton is half price for a week or two, and last year Axamer lizum was open with the peak lift only for 99 schilling, 7 dollar fifty!! A damn good day that was powder and all, BBQ in the sun in the valley afterword.
post #4 of 15
Also understand a lot of resorts out west are using public land and those closing dates are set well before the season starts. In a really good season a resort might think to extend the lease but in general most people have moved on to other things in the spring so it makes no sense for them.
post #5 of 15

A dog that's gotta scratch is going to find a way. Killington is not on of my favorite places in the world but they do stay open late. My son and I called it quits there May 16 last year.

People have a very seasonal mentality and 99% put em away before Easter. I refuse to take up golf so I just mope till mid fall. :

This has been a bad season for sure, but every ten or so years you have a warm one. When I was a kid I never noticed as much and never cared because I would just wax my surfboard instead of waxing skis.
post #6 of 15
I located myself at Killington partly because of the long season. If you have the 'itch', there's something to be said for a Halloween to Memorial Day season. I'm a complete and total spring skiing junkie. I suffer through the winter to get those 50 degree sunny days with killer corn snow. Fortunately, today was one of 'em so I'm sporting a huge grin.
post #7 of 15
Skiing was invented to create an expensive sport that coincided with the Christmas Shopping Season. It's all about selling stuff to the kooks.

That's why you get thick Skiing Magazines in September, October, and November, but the thin March issue is really March/April (and arrives in early February, even before peak season). In Europe where they care about racing, they televise races in October but they're done by March -- that's the way the sponsors want it.

If you care more about sport than consumerism, ski more in April and May than in December. If you don't understand why people like slush, take a freaking lesson.
post #8 of 15
post #9 of 15
Ski magazine a couple of years ago had an article lamenting the fact that in the last 10 years or so, most ski areas (and most skiers) have been pushing the start of the ski season earlier and earlier. In fact, there is quite a bit of competition amongst the CO ski areas to see which will open first. The article went on to complain that all those skiers that are so anxious to get skiing early in generally lousy conditions are nowhere to be found come March and April (the snowiest months).
post #10 of 15
This link lists the closing dates for many European ski resorts: http://www.ifyouski.com/travel/rstclosingdates/
post #11 of 15
Oh to have the luxury of closing with snow still around.

In NZ, the big areas generally open as soon as there is enough white to pick your way down, and close when the last remnants have melted away. That usually gives us 4-5 months.
post #12 of 15
I am considering going to Val Thorens on 2nd - 6 th May. Later on (end May or early June) might try the Haute route, or a variant thereof.
post #13 of 15
Sphrrt is correct. The main factor we close DV is that the last couple weeks of the season, we see more locals and employess than the destination skier, who comes out for a week. There is no money being made on locals, or employees
Another factor, we start losing staff. This year wasn't so bad, we only had to close one lift a week early due to staffing levels.This lift was the beginner lift out near Empire.
We only had 3,maybe 4 runs closed due to conditions. Theses runs were out in the Mayflower area, which gets direct sun all day long. So by Noon most days of the last two weeks, Patrol would close those runs, cause it was way to soft.
This year unlike seasons past we did open a week late, and close a week early, due to the fact the Olympics did scare off alot of people coming out to Utah.( we normally open the first Dec weekend, close the secound April weekend)
From a pretty reliable source, i was hearing that there was only 300-400 day skiers, each day at the resort, during the games.
post #14 of 15
Well as GAPer said, Europe wintery lift served skiing season is not that log too.
In Italy usually opens DEC 7 and closes
just after Easter (somwday in April).
The thing is, with the coming of the "good" season, those same people who in Winter would choose to drive to the mountains, will drive down to the sea... (the "Ligurean sea"
which is in fact the Mediterranean, it's just 130 Km from Milano,
which means about one hour's drive...)
After that, it's Glaciers season, Presena
and Stelvio just to name the two closest to my home...
Of course if someone is a Ski-mountaineer, then the season lasts till the snow melts, but then, there is always some snow, at least of the mountains northern faces.
Alsa, it is not my case, I must stick to the lifts. I am not good at climbing a mountain.
post #15 of 15
This year Crystal Mtn has extended their season til late April and plan on opening again on weekends from Memorial Day weekend. 8am to 2pm for $20. Assuming the snowpack lasts. I got that info from a Crystal ski patroler last Monday.
I consider myself lucky to be only 125 miles from Whistler and get to ski until June if I want. I usually go until mid May before I have to stay home and cut the lawn.
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